With training camp around the corner, the New York Giants face a depth chart increasingly stacked with talent and some tough decisions in the near future.
If there's one thing GM Jerry Reese has prided himself on in his short tenure, it's creating competition. There's no complacency when it comes to being a starter for the Giants, and this year is no different.
But there are some holes, and while they're not of the dire variety, how Reese addresses these holes could go a long way in determining the Giants' future.
One of the biggest areas of concern heading into camp is depth on the offensive line. The Giants are widely respected as being one of the top running teams in the NFL, and their O-line is recognized as being one of the best, if not the best, units in the league.
One of the main reasons for their success is the fact the starting unit has been on an unbelievable streak of remaining injury free.
Over the past four years, LT David Diehl and RG Chris Snee have made 64-straight starts. Center Shaun O'Hara has missed one start during that four-year period, and RT Kareem McKenzie has missed three starts in that time. LG Rich Seubert, the only starter who hasn't been a part of the first unit for at least four years, has made 32 straight starts.
An injury-free run like that, especially considering the physical demands offensive linemen face, can't continue. So what happens when someone goes down?
At tackle, the Giants have Guy Whimper, Kevin Boothe, Adam Koets, and second-round pick William Beatty. If Diehl or McKenzie are out for an extended period, I don't have the confidence that any of the backups could step in without a significant decline in the OL's effectiveness.
At guard, Boothe could step in if needed, but again, I wouldn't be comfortable. There's really no one else of note to backup the guard spot, which is a concern.
Another concern is that the backup center is Seubert, which, should O'Hara go down, would open up a spot at guard that the Giants are not adequately capable of filling.
One possibility is that the Giants bring back Grey Ruegamer. Not the most talented lineman, Ruegamer's true value is in his versatility. Another option is for Reese to wait for the first round of camp cuts to find some bodies.
Another hole can be found at the No. 1 WR spot. Giants fans were convinced the G-Men would be trading for Braylon Edwards or Anquan Boldin, thus filling the void left by Plaxico Burress. But Reese determined the price -- in draft picks and contract dollars -- to be too high for Edwards or Boldin, so Eli Manning is left with an inexperienced corps of receivers. Rookie Hakeem Nicks will join Steve Smith and Domenik Hixon in New York's top tier of WRs. The next tier has Mario Manningham, Sinorice Moss and rookie Ramses Barden. David Tyree, Micah Rucker, Derek Hagan and Shaun Bodiford also will compete for spots.
While Smith is widely believed to be a slot receiver, and a very good one at that, many Giants fans believe Hixon can step in and be a No. 1 WR. I, on the other hand, don't agree with that assessment. Hixon, in small bursts, has proved to be a capable receiver. But I don't believe he could handle the rigors of a 16-game season. Some have even stated that Manningham is a future No. 1. Again, I'm not a believer. A lack of football smarts has followed Manningham around since his college days at Michigan, and understanding the nuances of the WR position in the NFL is one of the most difficult jobs in the league.
One option out there to fill the void is free agent Marvin Harrison. Released by the Colts, Harrison hasn't been receiving much interest around the league. And being that the Giants haven't shown any interest in Harrison, nor did they show any interest in Torry Holt before he signed with Jacksonville, I don't see Harrison in Big Blue anytime soon.
On defense, the most noticeable holes seem to be strong safety, strong side linebacker and backup middle linebacker.
Many Giants fans like the aggressive play of last year's starting strong safety, Michael Johnson. But it's that same aggressive play that has been at the root of many big plays the Giants defense has given up the last two years.
Texans vet C.C. Brown, a starter the last three years, and undrafted free agent Sha'reff Rashad, whom Giants coaches have raved about, could push Johnson to the bench. Someone in that trio needs to step up and provide some continuity next to Kenny Phillips.
OLB was obviously a concern for the Giants, as they went out and signed Falcons LB Michael Boley and drafted Virginia LB Clint Sintim in the second round of last month's draft. While Boley is no doubt the starting WLB, the question is, who will start on the other side?
Last year's starter, Danny Clark, is a dime-a-dozen type that really shouldn't be starting for an elite defense. Sintim is a good prospect, but he struggles at covering backs and tight ends, which is exactly the kind of thing that could destroy an otherwise solid unit. The best option is likely to be Bryan Kehl, a fourth-round pick in the 2008 draft. Kehl started two games last season and showed a good mix of instincts and athletic ability.
While I think Reese did a great job with the draft, my biggest knock was that he didn't go out and get a future replacement for MLB Antonio Pierce.
Pierce has missed only four games in his four years with the Giants, but many fans, myself included, believe his skills are diminishing. Getting a future field general to groom will be difficult to do at this time of the offseason. I would have been much happier with the draft had the Giants drafted South Carolina's Jasper Brinkley or Southern Miss LB Gerald McRath.